Infrastructure Is Crowded Out. So Now What?
Sen. Mark Warner believes infrastructure is being crowded out of the federal budget by entitlements and “small-ball” thinking in Congress. Only “De minimis” increases (Websters: “so minor as to merit disregard”) in funding for user-fee based infrastructure programs are in the cards for the foreseeable future, he says. Moreover, Warner expects next year’s highway reauthorization bill will cut future road and transit spending by 30%; there will be no general fund transfers, he says. Highway Trust Fund spending will be linked to shrinking gas-tax revenues unless some “transformative ideas” for generating new revenue are brought to Washington by the private sector.
Stepping into this maw, Warner (D-Va.) introduced his version of an infrastructure bank this month. Bowing to budget pressures, however, it too is relatively “small ball,” with a preliminary budget scoring of just $7 billion, a large reliance on leveraging private finance, and a focus on rural port and waterway projects.